Among the homeless in Knox County, especially among those who are chronically homeless with serious drug addiction issues, “70 percent are mentally ill and they are eating up an incredible amount of the community’s resources.”
That’s according to David Harrell, director of development for The Salvation Army, Knoxville Area Com-mand including surrounding counties.
Harrell detailed the homeless challenges facing his organization, and the cost that falls on all taxpayers and those who donate to KAC, as guest speaker during The Rotary Club of Farragut’s weekly meeting Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 22, in Fox Den Country Club boardroom.
According to Har-rell’s latest statistics, Knox County had 861 documented homeless persons.
“The average homeless person in [Knox County] costs our community over $40,000 a year,” Harrell added. “… That’s a staggering $34 million.”
When Lakeshore Mental Health Institute closed a few years ago, “It created a huge problem,” Harrell said.
Breaking down the various homeless costs, “If you come down to where we’re at you’ll see an ambulance three or four times a day every single day,” Harrell said. “Emergency room services, hospital care, primary care, mental health care, police services, jail time, case management — it adds up in a hurry.”
In attempting to rehabilitate homeless who have the will to help themselves, Harrell said KAC’s Operation Bootstrap program serves about 500 men age 18 and older, which over a 30- to 90-day period provides housing while they work through their homelessness issues.
“Operation Bootstrap program provides a clear path for the homeless to move back to self- sufficiency,” he added. “The emphasis is sobriety, accountability and employment.”
How successful? “We’re able to place nine out of 10 of our clients in some sort of employment within two weeks,” Harrell said.